The Room: the ultimate audience participation guide for beginners
I came to The Room very late. In fact it was only this time last year I sat down to watch it with three other unwitting idiots in, of all places, a rented apartment in Barcelona.
We were on a stag-do and outside the wooden shutters of our apartment there was a beautiful city waiting to be explored that none of us had visited before, and yet here we were watching for the first time Tommy Wiseau’s gammon-fisted attempt at filmmaking that has been described as the worst movie ever made.
Since then, I’ve watched The Room five times, listened to countless podcasts dissecting its history, devoured the phenomenal ‘behind-the-scenes of The Room’ book The Disaster Artist written by its co-star Greg Sestero and dragged many more hapless souls down into the pits of my obsession. The stag-do I’ve thought about precisely twice.
In a way I’m glad I had waited till 2015, because if I had seen The Room around its 2003 release then surely by now my mind would have completely rotted from the hypothetical number of times I could’ve watched it.
THE ROOM IS THE OPPOSITE OF A BAD MOVIE
You see, the not-so-secret joy of The Room is that it’s not actually the worst film ever made. Truly bad films are unwatchable, boring and made for cynical purposes. They offer zero entertainment value. The Room on the other hand is completely addictive, revealing more wonder and layers of fascination with every viewing. It’s never boring, there isn’t an ounce of cynicism behind its creation and it is endlessly re-watchable.
The plot itself is mundane. It’s the stuff of a fairly boring daytime soap opera. Johnny (as played by writer, director, producer, genuine auteur Tommy Wiseau) works in a bank, is beloved by all of his friends (which the film takes great pains to make clear) and seems to have a loving relationship with his fiancée (sorry “future wife”) Lisa. Unfortunately, the love of his life is having an affair with Johnny’s best friend Mark. That’s basically it. There are also sub-plots that go nowhere, characters who totally disappear, other characters who appear halfway through without being introduced and multiple excruciating sex scenes (one of which is the same one used twice).
It’s this bewildering lack of common sense that makes the film so fascinating. It’s not that it’s just incompetent, it’s as if it’s been put together by an alien who watched one film a decade ago and fell asleep halfway through. It’s a Chinese whisper of a film. Everything is technically in the right place when it begins, but by the end there’s so much that’s off-target that the finished product is mutated beyond all recognition. But… and this is the major point… it is made with nothing but integrity, by a man who earnestly believes in his own project and what he’s trying to say with it.
The ultimate joy of The Room is watching it in company with at least one person who has never seen it before. Definitely don’t bother watching it on your own, especially if it’s your first time. You won’t find it funny, just baffling and irritating. In company you can share in its inconsistencies, facepalm its lack of internal logic and pick up on things you’ve never noticed before…
I hadn’t realised until the fifth viewing that a television in Lisa’s apartment is directly facing the back of an armchair. It took two viewings before I noticed the spoon pictures, three viewings to pick up on the fact nobody EVER CLOSES THE FUCKING DOOR.
And this brings us to February 2016 and the Prince Charles Theatre, London.
The Room: Live!
The PCC has been showing monthly screenings of The Room for years. These screenings quickly turned into Rocky Horror style audience participatory events, as they have done the world over. And at the beginning of February, this monthly event was gifted with the attendance of Tommy Wiseau himself.
Over the course of five nights, and multiple showings, Earth’s strangest enigma Tommy Wiseau introduced his masterpiece, posed for photos, signed merchandise (there is a lot of merchandise, Wiseau is first and foremost a retailer – he has his own underwear range!) he took questions (answers ranged from the deflected to the mumbled) and gave away goodie bags. The bags didn’t have any goodies inside them, they were just bags. It was Tommy’s way of saving us 5p every trip to the supermarket. What a Samaritan!
When the Methods team met Tommy, he was an absolute gentleman. He informed us that we get a free TW beanie with the DVD, we chatted, shook hands, took some photos. He looked healthy too, or at least what we could see behind the giant sunglasses and that hair.
I highly recommend attending one of these screenings next time they happen at the PCC (the next is 1st March) or at any cinema around the country. With that in mind, here’s what you should expect, as the first time can be a bewildering experience…
tips on what to expect from attending a screening of The Room:
1) It’s so much fun. Despite it being my fifth viewing I would do it again tomorrow.
2) According to Raul, Tommy’s assistant, every night and every crowd is different, with them latching onto different aspects and lines in different viewings.
3) Make sure you’ve seen The Room at least once before you attend. A lot of the dialogue can be drowned out and key ‘classic scenes’ tend to lose their power when the already badly recorded sound is drowned out by yelling and badly timed quoting.
4) That made it sound like it’s going to be an overly raucous, intimidating affair. And it is definitely raucous. But the crowd settles into nice rhythm and it turns into something akin to a live episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. I found myself crying with laughter with many spontaneous comments, and again, I discovered loads of stuff I never noticed before.
5) Although if anyone shouts “fat Britney” when Lisa comes on, you should definitely boo them.
6) Go a bit drunk. Or whatever else helps you relax and lose your inhibitions.
7) Prepare for quite a lot of cancer jokes. Although these are more a comment on The Room’s most baffling non-sequitur rather than to be wilfully offensive.
8) Okay the spoon thing. One of The Room’s bizzarrest and laziest eccentricities is in part of its production design. The framed pictures in Lisa’s apartment contain pictures of spoons, clearly this is the placeholder image meant to be removed from the frame after it had been bought. Nobody did this, and the spoon pictures remain forever immortalised. To celebrate this, whenever the spoons are shown, the audience launches a volley of their own spoons at the screen.
9) DO NOT THROW METAL SPOONS, take a load of plastic ones instead.
10) When I say ‘a load’. Take fucking loads! You will be surprised at how satisfying it is launching a volley of plastic spoons in a cinema. You’ll also be surprised a how many thousands everyone else brought. It likes staring from above the atmosphere as all out nuclear war is launched across the globe.
11) Chances are you will be subjected to an episode of Tommy Wiseau’s sitcom The Neighbours before The Room. It’s not a so-bad-it’s-good-masterpiece, it’s just a pile of shit.
12) Dress code: red dresses and ill-fitting tuxedos.
traditional shouts and heckles:
13) “Meanwhile in San Francisco!” This can be shouted during one of The Room’s many, many… many, establishing shots of San Francisco (btw The Room was actually shot in LA, with a green-screen used to recreate the San Francisco skyline on rooftop scenes. Yep.) You can also shout “Go! Go! Go! Go” over any of the lengthy tracking shots across Golden Gate Bridge.
14) “Because you’re a woman!” This is a reference to the weird, twisted misogyny that guides Tommy’s characterisation of Lisa, which is a more than blatant attempt to work through his own anger at some mysterious person who broke Tommy’s heart in the past. This can be shouted as a response to any line delivered by a female character, but mainly Lisa.
15) “Scotchka!” Tommy Wiseau clearly has a child’s idea of what making a cocktail is like, as evidenced by the scene where Lisa pours Johnny a drink made from two-parts Scotch and two-parts vodka. Scotchka! You don’t need me to tell you not to sneak this concoction into the cinema with you, or indeed ever to drink it in real life.
16) One of my favourite moments is the impromptu singalong to ‘You Are My Rose’, one of the many blandly inoffensive RnB tracks soundtracking The Room’s aforementioned many, many… many sex scenes.
17) Another hilarious musical moment is the singing of the ‘Mission Impossible theme’ when Johnny implausibly hooks-up a tape recorder to his fiancee’s (sorry, future wife’s) telephone.
18) “Who the fuck are you?” Asked at any point when a seemingly principle character is introduced who hasn’t been established in the first 30 minutes of the movie. Or 80 minutes into the movie if you’re this guy…
19) Counting the number of times a football is thrown. The Room spends a lot time with characters holding or throwing a football, often in constricted areas where nobody would ever throw a football. You probably won’t be allowed to throw a football around the cinema, so perhaps don’t bring one yourself.
20) General squeamishness. This can be articulated any time Lisa’s neck does ‘that thing’.
22) Much like the Bluth family from Arrested Development, none of the cast seem to be able to do a decent impression of a cowardly chicken. Neither should you.
23) And of course you should be prepared to greet all of the main characters with an, “Oh hai Mark/Lisa/Denny” whenever they walk through the door of WHOEVER’S FUCKING APARTMENT THIS IS???
Go to the Prince Charles Cinema to book tickets for the next showing.
16 February, 2016 at 3:34 pm
Oh hai Christopher. Excellent homemade gifs. Keep in mind, if you have any problems talk to me and I will help you.
16 February, 2016 at 9:13 pm
Oh hai Tommy. Thanks for paying my tuition by the way.